All about Bank Voles
The bank vole is the smallest of the vole species in Britain. It is common throughout most of the UK, but does not seem to occur higher than 600 metres above sea level. Bank voles do not hibernate and remain active throughout the year.
What to look for
The bank vole is only 8-12cm long and 15-40g in weight. The adult has a red-brown coat, prominent ears, long tail, and a thick almost mouse-like build. The bank vole is a nimble creature that runs and climbs rapidly, and can swim well, often crossing wide stretches of water.
Did you know?
- Due to vulnerability to predators, such as owls, kestrels and weasels, the bank vole tries to remain hidden, travelling along a system of worn routes that have been forced through the undergrowth, or along shallow tunnels dug just below the surface. These worn routes form a network across a home range of about 40 metres.
- The bank vole feeds on seeds, nuts, fungi, berries, fruit, and also roots and bulbs. It forages for its food along the woodland floor, or by climbing branches, depending on which food is available. During the autumn months, the bank vole harvests berries, seeds, and nuts ready for winter. It digs a small isolated hole, fills it with the food, and covers it roughly. Sometimes the food-filled holes connect with its underground tunnels.
- The breeding season starts in the spring and reaches its peak during June. The nest burrows are set in soft soil, normally between the roots of a large tree or shrub, and have several entrances to the surface. The female gives birth to between three and six sightless, naked young in the underground nest, which is lined with grass, moss, and feathers. The young are weaned after two or three weeks and will be able to breed in a few months. The female vole often produces as many as five litters in a single year and the females of the first litter of the season can produce litters of their own later that same year.
- The bank vole has a short life expectancy from only a few months up to two years.
The bank vole is common throughout the United Kingdom, but is rarely seen higher than 600m above sea level.
Bank voles are commonly found in woodland, in thick undergrowth along banks and hedgerows, and in thickets of brambles and bracken on the woodland floor. They can also be seen in open places such as abandoned quarries and tumbledown walls where there is plenty of cover.
Where to see
Bank voles usually have several short periods of activity throughout the day; however they are usually most active before dawn or after dusk. The home range of a bank vole can be up to 40 metres in diameter, but the males may travel long distances. These animals are gregarious and large populations can occur in small areas where the environment is suitable. Voles are often hard to spot, as they tend to appear as a red-brown blur streaking across woodland paths.